Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre

The show hits Hollywood Boulevard before heading to Costa Mesa

By: Jun. 22, 2022
Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre
Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre
Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli

Rebooting a classic is always dicey. If it's an exact blueprint, what's the point? But deviating from that blueprint can alienate its fans. And how to make it fresh yet still retain the magic that made it work in the first place?

The producers of PRETTY WOMAN the musical learned the hard way just how difficult it is to replicate the alchemy of the 1990 rom-com that established Julia Roberts as the leading female movie star of the last decade of the 20th century. The film oozed PG-13 charm and, having been sanitized from its original, gritty concept, the Disney-owned Touchstone picture was a smash, grossing $178 million (almost $400 million in today's dollars) and even garnering an Oscar nom for Roberts. It was a sensation. It's iconic.

And it's a hard act to follow.

The story follows a squeaky-clean Hollywood Boulevard prostitute named Vivian (Olivia Valli) who is hired by a wealthy man, Edward (Adam Pascal), to be his companion for a week. They, of course, fall in love. PRETTY WOMAN the musical is smart to retain its 1990 setting because mores have changed so much in the past 30+ years that a Disneyfied rom-com about a sex worker wouldn't land the same way if based in 2022 (Hollywood Boulevard has also been Disneyfied in the interim, so it also wouldn't work in that location). This, of course, leads to some pretty amusing costumes and hairstyles, many of which are lifted directly from the film.

Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre
Kelsee Sweigard, Olivia Valli, and Becca Suskauer

That also, however, leads to a big problem: Audiences can't help but compare and contrast, especially when the production is jumping through hoops to remind us of what made the original special. That becomes a bigger problem when the show itself fails on its own merits. While remaining faithful to its source material, PRETTY WOMAN lacks all of the fizz that made the film such a sensation.

The score by rock star Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner, Jim Vallance, is entirely unmemorable with only one number popping, and it doesn't even involve the leads. Scene stealer Kyle Taylor Parker playing a concierge at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel leads his bellhops in "A Night Like Tonight" and they and their harmonizing are mesmerizing. Otherwise all the acts fall flat, the music being generic and immediately forgettable. While a choice was made to not include any of the songs from the film's soundtrack (perhaps due to licensing fees), that means there is no built-in nostalgia for those of a certain age, which might have helped smooth over the rougher spots in the show.

Some of the best-known moments in the film, including the moment when Edward presents Vivian with a necklace, the scene where the previously mentioned concierge schools Vivian in how to behave in high society, and when Vivian herself schools some snooty shop clerks, are all either muted or too broad. The story hits most of the beats but they never connect.

Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre
Pascal and Valli

The biggest problem, though, is with the casting of the leads. Valli and Pascal have zero chemistry, and while the plot of the movie Pretty Woman was thin and borderline icky to start with, the stars' chemistry was off the charts. They helped raise the project above the mundane. The entire concept rests on Vivian and how much we are taken with her, just as Edward is, but Valli is woefully miscast. Bless her heart, she doesn't embody the winning appeal necessary for us to fall in love. And don't get me wrong. It's not easy to make frothiness appear effortless. But without that, there is never any indication why Edward falls for her. Both of their performances are vacant, like they want to be anywhere but where they are.

Some cool set design by David Rockwell doesn't make up for such a lackluster production, especially when it runs two and a half hours. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell can't conjure the irresistible and irrepressible dazzle of the film and that's no surprise. It's difficult to capture lightning in a bottle. And it's even more difficult to recreate that lightning. It's not that this production is a Big Mistake. Huge. It's simply uninspired.

PRETTY WOMAN is performed at the Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd through July 3. Get tickets by going to or, calling(800) 982-2787, or going to the theater box office. It will then relocate to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from July 5 through July 17.

All photos: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade




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From This Author - Harker Jones

Harker Jones has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and critic for 15 years. He was managing editor of Out magazine for seven years and has written two novels (including the #1 Amazon... Harker Jones">(read more about this author)


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